The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (second right); Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Deaconess Grace Isu Gekpe (right), and Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkinen (left) when The Ambassador paid an advocacy visit to the minister in Abuja

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has disclosed that his ministry will this month convene a stakeholders’ meeting as part of efforts to design a framework for the sanitization of the social media.

Alhaji Mohammed revealed this in Abuja on Monday when he received the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkinen, and the Ambassador of Innovation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Mr. Jarmo Sareva, who were in his office on an advocacy visit to promote the ideals of the Freedom Online Coalition.

The minister said government’s response to the irresponsible use of the social media to promote fake news and hate speech by some unscrupulous individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to sanitize the social media, without stifling press freedom or infringing on the rights of individuals.

His words, “Our attempt to sanitize the social media is not at all an attempt to stifle the media and I want to make this very clear. As we speak today, we will be meeting later in the month with leaders of the media, civil society, security and other stakeholders on how to sanitize our social media and make it safe for all.

“We, especially in this ministry, have watched with some trepidation the social media front and we have seen how some people try to abuse this platform to cause disaffection, especially by pushing fake news and hate speech.”

While expressing government’s overwhelming commitment to the protection of human rights, both offline and online, Mohammed noted however, that it will not shy away from ensuring that Nigeria has a responsibly free media.

He said that in spite of the plurality of values, tribes, cultures and religions, the government has striven to strike a balance between press/individual freedom and national security.

Mohammed said, “For us in Nigeria, respect for human rights is a cardinal principle of not just our constitution, but of our day-to-day governance. I am yet to see any country with the kind of population we have, the kind of multi values, multi cultures and multi religions we have, that has at the same time striven to balance national security with freedom of the press.

“I make bold to say that this administration, in particular, has no intention and does not tamper with the freedom of speech or freedom of individuals.”

The Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Pulkkinen, while acknowledging the minister’s broad understanding of issues surrounding the misuse of the social media, particularly in relation to the credibility of information on the platform, urged Nigeria to partner with global bodies, like the Freedom Online Coalition, to address some of the challenges posed by the social media.

On his part, the Ambassador of Innovation in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Mr. Sarevo, said the Freedom Online Coalition is a group of 31 like-minded countries, formed to promote human rights online and also ensure cyber security, privacy and protection of data against illegal usage and monetization and trust, with a view to protecting all those uploading data on the internet.


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